Top potential NL sleepers for 2011
Sleepers are the rags-to-riches late-round stories who give far more than expected. After taking a stab at who we think might emerge
Brown is a favorite pick for NL Rookie of the Year as a five-tool, five-category star in the making. He has a great supporting cast and home hitter's park to spend half his games in, too. The right-field spot is vacant thanks to the departure of Jayson Werth, so Brown could be a .280-20-80-20 producer.
The Braves are a gold mine for sleepers this spring, mostly because they have a slew of NL Rookie of the Year contenders in Kimbrel, if he closes, first baseman Freddie Freeman and lefty No. 5 starter Mike Minor. Brandon Beachy is competing for a rotation spot, too. Any one of those could challenge Brown for NL ROY honors.
Sanchez is one of those sophomores who will be overlooked this spring. He wasn't quite considered at elite prospects -- especially not at the deep first-base position -- but he had a strong rookie season in the majors. If he can improve on 2010, you could get a .290-30-100 guy in the depths of this position.
The Mets are hoping to catch lightning in a bottle with Young coming off shoulder woes. You should hate pitchers with shoulder issues, but if R.A. Dickey can prove to be fantasy viable as a knuckleballer in that cavernous park, perhaps Young can enjoy a renaissance, too.
Everyone will ignore then Nationals until Stephen Strasburg (Tommy John elbow surgery) returns in 2012, but don't sleep on Zimmermann. He has power stuff coming off his own UCL replacement surgery and is ready for his first full season in the majors. He could be a candidate to post a sub-3.00 ERA and a strikeout per inning as a late-rounder.
Few know how good Marcum is. He was stuck north of the border pitching for an also-ran with the Blue Jays in the AL Beast last year. He now gets a contender with a potent offense. We should find just how good this Tommy John survivor can be this season. Oh, and he is arbitration eligible next winter and a potential free agent in 2013.
Unless you're an intense fantasy player who studies the depths of the minor leagues or prospects, you probably don't see much out of Freese. He epitomizes the unknown and unseen, due to injury and underperformance. You should know Freese is capable of being a .280-25-90 guy.
This is what injury-risk sleepers are all about. Volquez was a Cy Young candidate before Tommy John surgery. Last season, he could hardly hold down a rotation spot down the stretch, much less a spot on fantasy teams. He should be widely underrated this spring.
Dewitt has more pop in his bat than he has shown, and he could be a 15-homer fantasy second baseman this season. He only slugged at that rate in August, but he did enough to enter the season as the Cubs' everyday option at the spot. He will be more of an NL-only sleeper than a mixed-league one.
Everyone will agree Wallace has a stick that could produce big numbers, but the Cardinals, A's and Blue Jays have already moved him out of their systems. Wallace has been traded for some serious players, though. He could be a poor man's Berkman in replacing that Houston favorite.
Joel Hanrahan might open the season as the Pirates' closer, but Meek is more certain to finish as it. Meek is younger and has knockout stuff fitting for a closer of the future. Frankly, he should be the closer of the present.
If you can cover paper over Stewart's big-league numbers and just remember the hype as a prospect, you can envision what this writer does: a .290-30-100 breakthrough.
Kung Fu Panda came out swinging in '09 only to go bust as an early-round pick last season. You should figure he gets back to being his pre-'10 form in the power categories. It should make him a nice option after the elite corner infielders are off the board. He is coming at a bargain rate this spring.
Loney is one of those former top prospects who has looked like he could go .300-20-100 in spurts but has never put it together. Well, guess how old he turns this season? Yep, 27. This could be
With Adrian Gonzalez in Boston, the Padres are a team of potential sleepers one through eight in the batting order. With that said, let's highlight the home-grown product that has been around the longest and is still just 26 -- 27 in May. He could be the top offensive threat in this lineup this season.
Montero, like Iannetta above, has shown flashes of 20-homer potential as a catcher. He is coming off an injury-plagued year and is finally slated to be uncontested at the position now that Chris Snyder is in Pittsburgh. Montero is going to go well after the top catchers but he could rebound an perform like one of them.